MERALCO refused to show brotherly love to NLEX it cruised to a 91-84 victory on Sunday night to gain a share of the early lead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
The Bolts erased an early double-digit deficit before tightening their defensive screws after intermission to pull away in the payoff period and frustrate their sister squad.
Alex Stepheson dominated the paint once again, scattering 18 points, 24 boards, and three blocks, while Jared Dillinger showed the way for the locals of the Bolts, who registered a second straight win to tie the day’s earlier winner, Rain or Shine, at the top.
The Road Warriors wasted an early 10-point lead as they dropped a second straight assignment.
“Our defense really stepped up in the second half,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “We were a bit lax in the first half and we gave up a lot of points in the second quarter.
“Alex was moving a lot better tonight than he did in the last game,” he added. “But he still can make a lot of improvement,” he added.
With Stepheson anchoring their defense, the Bolts locals took the offensive cudgels in the final frame where Dillinger scored nine of his 20 points, while Justin Chua added all of his six markers.
Dillinger and Chua presided a 19-4 run that saw their two-point lead at the start of the fourth balloon to 17 points, 88-71, with a little over five minutes remaining in the game.
The Bolts limited the Road Warriors to just 17 points in the fourth period and held their opponents to just 39-percent (31-of-80) shooting overall.
The final score belied how one-sided the game went in the fourth period as the Road Warriors inched closer by scoring at garbage time.
Wayne Chism led NLEX with 18 points – although he had to take 24 attempts to reach his total, and 17 boards.
MERALCO 91 – Dillinger 21, Stepheson 18, Newsome 15, Hugnatan 13, Amer 12, Chua 6, Caram 3, Uyloan 2, Hodge 2, Faundo 0, Daquioag 0
NLEX 84 – Chism 18, Lanete 14, Alas 8, Guinto 7, Lastimosa 6, Tiongson 6, Khobuntin 5, Monfort 5, Camson 5, Taulava 2, Rios 2, Anthony 2, Soyud 2, Baracael 2, J. Villanueva 0
Quarterscores: 26-19, 40-45, 69-67, 91-84